- The parent company of Bang Energy said Jack Owoc, who was the founder, CEO, chief science officer and chairman, will no longer serve in these positions or as a member of the board, the company said in a statement.
- Vital Pharmaceuticals, which produces Bang, said John DiDonato, currently the company’s chief transformation officer, has been named interim CEO. The company said DiDonato brings more than 35 years of experience leading businesses through “complex financial and operational transformations.”
- The removal of the outspoken Owoc comes five months after Vital filed for Chapter 11 protection following multiple costly lawsuits, the biggest involving Monster Energy, that weighed on its business.
The sudden departure of Owoc is the latest in a series of high-profile incidents that have impacted Bang and its parent company during the last several years. While Bang’s statement announcing the departure of its founder was light on details, it’s likely the board lost confidence in Owoc and wanted a new leader during a challenging period in the company’s history.
“We acknowledge Jack’s vision in founding this leading brand and creating a world-class product in the energy drink category,” Steve Panagos, chairman of the board, said in a statement. “As the Company continues to pursue value maximization, we are grateful to Mr. DiDonato and the executive leadership team for their stewardship and to the talented and hard-working members of the Bang Energy team for their unyielding commitment to the brand.”
Bang’s recent challenges have upended what had been a favorable time in the brand’s history.
Vital entered into what appeared to be a promising distribution deal for Bang with PepsiCo in March 2020, but just eight months later Vital announced it was terminating its exclusive distribution partnership “citing multiple issues and concerns regarding PepsiCo’s performance,” Owoc said.
“We sincerely expected PepsiCo to execute at an even higher level based on their enormous resources and promises. Unfortunately, we were wrong. PepsiCo, you’re fired,” he said.
The decision resulted in a bitter and protracted period of litigation before the companies parted ways.
Then last October, Vital filed for bankruptcy to “help the company recover from recent challenges” and to put in place a new distribution network. The filing came after Monster Energy won $293 million in a false advertising and trade secrets case against Bang.
Monster was identified in bankruptcy court papers as Bang’s largest unsecured creditor. Bang also owed PepsiCo $115 million under a settlement, as well as $2.1 million from consumer programs, according to documents filed in bankruptcy court.
In a statement announcing the bankruptcy, Bang said the PepsiCo deal led to a decline in market share, from about 9.7% just before the transaction to 6.3% when it exited, equating to about $680 million in lost sales.
Still, Owoc said at the time that Bang intends to regain its “formidable” market share. He vowed to continue fighting large corporations, including Monster and PepsiCo. “We are coming like a freight train and cannot be stopped,” he said.
But Vital is now set for a bankruptcy court auction, the South Florida Business Journal reported last week, and it’s likely the board believed it could better maximize its value in a sale under the direction of a new CEO.
Bang still has a highly recognizable brand name in the growing energy drink marketplace. But its recent challenges have not done the company any favors as it goes up against a number of heavyweight brands, including Rockstar, which is owned by PepsiCo, Monster and the fast-growing Celsius, among other players.